ballot proposals

Theresa Thompson / Flickr

Hahaha! No. We're just kidding. 

It's really hard. 

But we were serious about there being only two steps. 

We looked into this question as part of our MI Curious project - people send in their questions about Michigan or its people, questions are put up for a vote, then we look into the winning question.

This time, the winning question came from Michael Bieri.

"What would it take to realistically end gerrymanding in Michigan?" 

USFWS

On Nov. 4, voters in 11 Michigan cities will consider legalizing small amounts of marijuana. That’s the largest number of municipalities to ever consider the question in a single election in the state. As Michigan Public Radio’s Jake Neher reports, marijuana advocates think they can win all of them.

The Michigan primary election is on Aug. 5, and one of the things you’ll be looking at is Proposal 1. It asks voters to approve a tax policy change, but the proposal is very confusing.

To help us clear this up a little, Bob Schneider joined us today. Schneider is with the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. The organization is a nonpartisan non-profit group that objectively analyzes policy issues like Proposal 1.

*Listen to the full interview above.

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This Week in Michigan Politics Christina Shockley and Jack Lessenberry discuss the top political headlines of the week. This week's topic include:

  • Proposals to boost school funding.
  • Drama over Michigan's restrictions on how ballot campaigns can collect signatures.
  • How a bankruptcy plan for Detroit might come as early as next week.
  • How Detroit Public Schools have lost a collective 160 days from power outages.

Listen to the full interview below

In 270 days – come Election Day 2014 – it’s not just candidates you’ll be voting for, there are likely to be plenty of ballot questions, too. And, much like 2012, when there were half a dozen ballot questions, we might just see a repeat of Ballot-o-palooza.

Ballot questions can sometimes get people who might not be super-invested in voting for a candidate to actually get out and vote for a particular issue. For example, 2004, when a slew of anti-gay marriage ballot proposals may very well have helped George W. Bush win reelection.

But it’s not easy to get ballot questions passed. Voters tend to shy away from passing new laws via ballot. In fact, if you don’t start out with more than a 60% approval of your question, the chances are you won’t win come Election Day.

In 2012, $154 million dollars were spent on ballot questions and yet all six were defeated.

Which raises the issue: Money spent on ballot questions is often money that would otherwise be spent on other campaigns. Thus, the decision to go to the ballot with a certain issue raises lots of questions: Is it the best use of money, personnel, volunteers? How will it affect turnout – that’s if it affects turnout at all.

What will this year’s dynamic be?

Well, look for news early next week on the minimum wage ballot drive that would initiate a law raising Michigan’s minimum wage to somewhere between $9 and $10 an hour.

What is it about Decembers in Lansing? Last year, it was right-to-work. This year, the controversy is over a petition initiative, a veto-proof law that will require people to buy separate insurance for abortion coverage. It could not be part of a basic health insurance package in Michigan.

It was an initiated law, put before the GOP-led Legislature by the very, very influential anti-abortion group Right to Life. As we’ve noted before on It’s Just Politics, Right to Life is virtually unrivaled in its ability to organize a petition campaign, and to squeeze votes out of the Legislature, especially when Republicans are in charge.

So, that’s it, right? Law is passed. All done.

Well, not so fast. Because what is begotten by a petition drive can be challenged by a petition drive. Michigan’s pro-choice movement thinks it can take down this new law with a referendum. In fact, meetings have started to try to organize a ballot drive.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

No?

Well, dozens of Michigan counties and townships are holding special elections today. Most are focused on public school district proposals. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Here are some election highlights:

Michigan voters rejected Proposal 3 on Tuesday. The proposal would’ve required utilities to get 25 percent of their electricity sales from renewable sources by the year 2025.  It was controversial partly because it would’ve amended the state constitution.

Howard Edelson is the campaign manager for CARE for Michigan. The group worked to defeat the proposal on behalf of the state’s utilities.

Stateside: Financial transparency in politics

Nov 7, 2012

Millions of dollars were invested in Michigan’s recent ballot proposals.

While citizens were aware that money was being spent, it was often unclear how much money was spent and from whom it was coming.

Michigan Radio’s Lester Graham and Rich Robinson, director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, spoke with Cyndy about the need for financial transparency in elections.

You have to wonder what Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun thought, when it was clear the proposed constitutional amendment he designed to protect his monopoly was going down to a stunning defeat.

Moroun spent at least $33 million trying to get voters to say yes to his Proposal 6, which would have required a statewide vote before any new bridge or tunnel was built between Michigan and Canada. First, he paid to have the signatures collected.

Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder says he’d like to see some changes in the rules for how petition drives put proposals on the ballot.

The governor is particularly critical of paying petition circulators for signatures.

Ballot campaigns spent at least $9.6 million on signature collection alone this year. Governor Snyder said that circumvents the idea of ballot campaigns as grassroots initiatives.

He opposes the five proposed amendments to the state constitution.

6 things to know before you head to the polls in Michigan

Nov 5, 2012

Election Day is tomorrow.

That means voters should know who the candidates are and where they can find the polls.

Cheat sheets in polling places are allowed (this isn't a test), but political paraphernalia is not allowed inside the polls (so leave your Joseph F. Burke  for 15th District Judge t-shirt at home).

For those who need more information, Michigan Radio has assembled a last minute list of things to know.

Polls open tomorrow, November 6, at 7:00 a.m. and close at 8:00 p.m.

1) You can vote even if you don't have an ID

Graffiti in camping shelter
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Where to go for last minute election research

"For those who still don't know how to vote in tomorrow's election, there are resources available. Voters can look at their ballots ahead of time at the the voter education Web site, publius.org. The website includes video clips that analyze the statewide ballot questions and some local proposals. The site also has a few hundred candidate videos from districts scattered across the state," Sarah Hulett reports.

Damaged cars from superstorm Sandy could end up in Michigan car lots

"Hurricane Sandy damaged a lot of cars along the East Coast. Consumer advocates say it's possible some of those cars could end up on Michigan dealer lots. Ronald Montoya is with Edmunds dot com. He says if the damage was reported, it will appear on vehicle damage reports, such as Car Fax or Autocheck. Otherwise, a mechanic should take a look at the car to see if there are signs of water damage," Tracy Samilton reports.

Michigan Congressional race spending down in Michigan

"Nationwide, U.S. House candidates are raising record numbers of money for their campaigns this year. But that's not the case in Michigan. Michigan Congressional races will raise about $35 million this year - down from $50 million in 2010. That's because Michigan is down a district after losing population in the census. And Republicans redrew the district to protect incumbents. That means most races aren't all that competitive," Kate Wells reports.

Graffiti in camping shelter
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

If the latest poll from EPIC MRA is accurate, it appears all the ballot proposals are headed for defeat, though three of them appear close.

There are a lot of undecided voters (18 percent for Proposal 1).

Kelly Sullivan of EPIC MRA says based on past elections results, these voters tend to either vote 'no,' or they tend not to vote at all on the proposal in question.

So that tips the scales even further into the 'no' category for all of the ballot proposals.

Grass carp
USGS

The election is now only four days away, and I’ve been thinking about what will happen afterward.

Earlier this week, I received a nasty phone call from a woman named Bonnie.

She believes President Obama is evil, and a traitor.

She thinks the media are covering up the truth behind the killing of the American ambassador to Libya.

She was also upset that we are covering up the “fact,” as she put it, that President Obama’s family were all Communists.

I told her, in not very polite terms, that was idiotic.

She began screaming and I hung up.

What's on your ballot? Election 2012 voting resources

Nov 1, 2012
J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

So far over $140 million has been spent by campaigns for and against Michigan's six ballot proposals. That kind of money can pay for a lot of information (or misinformation) in the form of TV ads, phone calls, and mailers.

Thus Michigan voters can be forgiven for losing patience with the process. But that doesn't relieve them of their democratic duties.

Here are a few resources that voters can use to get the basic information they'll need for election day, and if they choose, a little more:

User: cncphotos / flickr

Every week Michigan Radio talks with political analyst Jack Lessenberry about what's been happening in Michigan politics.

This week Lessenberry and Kyle Norris talked about how Governor Rick Snyder is campaigning against all of the ballot proposals except for Proposal 1. Prop 1 involves emergency managers. And how Proposal 5, the proposal that deals with raising taxes, seems to be the most confusing and controversial proposal.

Norris and Lessenberry also discussed if Hurricane Sandy will influence Michigan voters, and how a recent Romney campaign ad claims the auto bailout resulted in GM using that money to hire more workers in China than in the U.S. Lessenberry says the ad isn't true.

A giant tour bus outside the Grand Rapids hotel where Governor Rick Snyder spoke Monday says it all – vote yes on prop one and no on the rest.

Snyder, some business leaders and even an emergency financial manager will be on the bus for the four day tour. They’ll stop in towns throughout the state to discuss the proposals.

Governor Snyder says he’s trying to better inform voters about their options.

There’s a week to go before election day, and increasingly, the big story, or maybe big scandal in Michigan is the six ballot proposals -- and the vast amounts of money being poured into them.

Michigan, whatever the pundits pretend, is not really a swing state, not anymore. It’s been months since either President Obama or Governor Romney has visited the state. This year’s race for the U.S. Senate is virtually invisible. But the ballot proposals are anything but.  And unbelievable amounts of money have been spent on them.

Next week, with just a week and a half to go before Election Day, Governor Snyder will board a bus to tour the state. The purpose of the trip: to focus attention on the Emergency Manager Law referendum and the five proposed amendments to the state constitution that you’ll find on the November ballot.

The Governor says he’s going all out, “I’m in campaign mode, to be open with you. I’m not running for office, as you know, right now… I’m setting up a schedule to say this is a campaign, because this is a campaign for Michigan’s future.” The governor is calling for a “yes” vote on Proposal One and “no” on the rest. This election has been called a referendum that will determine the success of the rest of his first term.

So, for us political junkies, it raises the question: can a governor, particularly one “in campaign mode,” really push the results of a ballot campaign in one direction or another. Typically, the answer is “no.” It’s often tried but usually a politician’s appeal or popularity does not rub off onto ballot proposals. Though they can gather a bit of media attention at first, endorsements are one of the most overrated political activities. The fact is, campaigns win or lose on the strength of message and organization. So, then, why do politicians engage in endorsements? Well, because politicians work with what they’ve got. A governor still has a platform, and it’s easier to sow seeds of doubt than to sell a ballot question. That’s why the governor is already working on a Plan B for a re-vamped Emergency Manager Law after the election, in case the EM Law is overturned.

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